Daunting for Someone Who Has Allergies

“‘How severe is your allergy?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, it’s deadly.'”

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Transcript for Daunting for Someone Who Has Allergies

Explaining to people the aspect of allergies has been something I’ve been doing my entire life.  When I was very young, I was diagnosed with asthma and allergies, so I spent plenty of time in a doctor’s office or at the hospital.  I remember one birthday, I actually spent it in the hospital because of an asthma attack.  We didn’t have the medication we did back then to be able to control it the way that we can now, so…I had a birthday in the hospital.  It’s not fun when you’re six or seven years old.  You want to have a birthday with your friends at Chuck E. Cheese’s and have some cake and presents.  I’m sure there was cake at the hospital, but it wasn’t what you wanted.

When I was younger, having those types of illnesses as a young boy, really affected you — affected me, specifically, because I couldn’t go out and have a peanut butter sandwich with someone.  Having asthma meant, you know, I might not have been able to play football, or baseball, or basketball the way the other kids could.  Did I get made fun of for it?  Certainly.

When I enter a room that I’ve never worked in before, or even a room that I’ve worked in before, I try and scope out what’s going on.  I try to see if there’s a jar of peanut butter or even a bag of mixed nuts, or trail mix that someone’s been eating from.  Or I might just even ask them, ‘Have you been eating, you know, peanuts or peanut butter?’  Sometimes you can smell it on someone before you even see it because of that peanut butter that’s in the air: it’s heavy, and earthy, and nutty, and I just know it’s there.

Sometimes I carry around surgical gloves and I’ll wear those while I’m working on someone’s computer.  Or if it’s really thick and heavy in the air, and the smell gets to me, I might just say, ‘I’ll probably come back later and work with you then.’  Or I might have a colleague come in and work on the machine instead.

I typically like to tell people, ‘Oh, I’m severely allergic to peanuts, or nuts, or whatever we might encounter.  That way they know why I’m leaving and why I’m calling someone else.  Rather than, ‘I have to go now.  Someone else will see you.’  You know, not having an explanation for them kind of puts them in a situation that they don’t want to be.  And I think it’s more fair to them to be up front about why I’m passing it off or why I’m changing the scenario at that point.  That way, they have the information the next time it happens.  Or at least have a better understanding of it.  And sometimes in those instances they’ve asked, ‘Well how severe are you — how severe is your allergy?’  And I’ll say, ‘Well, it’s deadly.’

The most recent time that I had an allergic reaction, I actually went to the Dynasty Buffet and experienced some of their — or lack thereof — kitchen cleaning ability.  It was cross-contamination from another…something within their buffet line.  They had, you know, mixed peanuts with something or they had—someone had taken a spoon from the Kung Pao chicken and put it into the beef and broccoli.  I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it didn’t take much time to realize that we needed to go to the ER.

When Porter [Hospital] did move out to the new location, it scared me just a little bit because then I realized, ‘Well, that’s ten more minutes that I have to drive in order to get to a hospital.’  I mean, there’s other local areas and there’s paramedics, but not having a hospital right around the corner — slightly daunting for someone who has allergies of that magnitude.

  • Caitlin Littlejohn

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to have so severe an allergy. This story was super eye-opening for me. I know what it’s like to have health-related issues that can seemingly dominate your life. It is easy to be misunderstood, but props to this man for finding ways to overcome!